Channel 4 will be covering the Paralympics in the UK, hot on the heels of the London Olympics. As part of the build-up they have been interviewing the medal hopefuls, and this month sent us a meeting with track cyclist Sarah Storey
* * *
Hi Sarah. Obviously you’ve been cycling for years. What advice would you give to people new to the sport?
First, it’s important you have a good seat position and correctly fitting shoes. It is worth spending some time getting used to clipless pedals so that you can pedal in circles and not just on the down stroke. Build up your time on the bike gradually and find routes that give you the option of coming home sooner, or staying out longer if you feel confident. It’s also very important to learn how to deal with a puncture on the roadside!
How much training does it take to become a Paralympic champion?
I train at least six days a week, but sometimes do 10- to 15-day blocks before a rest day. Training days can be anything from two hours to seven hours, depending on the phase of training and the time of year.
As a track and road cyclist, you ride indoors and outdoors – how does that pan out?
The track season is in the autumn and winter months while the road season is during spring and summer, so it's well balanced throughout the year, but during the track season there’s still a lot of road riding to be done. The road work is the bread and butter of an endurance cyclist's training, so it's probably split 75% road and 25% track across the year.
What exercises can cyclists do to improve their speed?
Sprint cyclists do lots of strength work in the gym with Olympic lifting bars and free weights. Core strength work is also widely regarded as being important for all types of athletes. But if you want to improve your pedalling, the best thing to do is more pedalling! It really is all about being on the bike.
What sort of food do you scoff to keep you well fuelled in training?
I try and eat things that are easily digestible and provide both quick energy and give my stomach something to work on. There is nothing worse than a rumbling stomach on the bike. I always steer clear of fattening or processed foods like cakes and croissants as the body struggles to digest fat quickly. When you’re cycling, the blood is diverted away from the stomach to the leg muscles, but it's still important to eat things that need little effort for the body to translate into energy. I work with CNP Professional, who provide nutritional support to the British team, and they have some well-researched products. My favourites are the caffeine gels and energy bars, alongside some bananas and jam butties. It’s also important to be well hydrated and I use something called CNP Pro Hydrate on the bike too.
Sarah Storey’s top five cycling tips:
1: Enjoy yourself!
2: Invest in a good map of your local area to find roads/routes you didn't know existed.
3: Make sure your shoes fit well and your cleats are adjusted to suit the natural position of your knees.
4: Take your time and learn how to handle your bike on corners, descents and with stopping distances.
5: Stay safe! Don't assume other road users have seen you, and always thank people who give you space and time.
* * *
You can keep up with the Paralympics on Channel 4 by following their Twitter feed @c4paralympics